Who knew then that the Kapoor who has chosen to make a career in a less glorified profession of cooking will eventually become one of the most sought after chefs of the country. He is currently seen imparting his experience and immense knowledge about cooking to amateur cooks from every nook and corner of the country on STAR Plus' Master Chef India.
After working with Taj groups including Taj Palace, Taj Mahal hotel in Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore to Taj Goa, Kapoor is now working with the Leela group of hotels. to those uninitiated, he had started the famous Made In India restaurant in Noida which later went on to bag the best restaurant award. Well talking about the Midas touch, we have the man himself share his experience, standard of the contestants on Master Chef India and Akshay Kumar's culinary skills.
1. The most important ingredient for a tasty dish?
I think the right kind of attitude is the most important ingredient to a tasty dish. If you are taking it as any mundane job or a necessity then it might not turn out to be very tasty. But when done with enjoyment and a desire to bring smile on the face of people who are going to eat the dish, it always turns out to be delicious.
2. What kind of attitude do you carry in the kitchen?
Entering in the kitchen and watching the utensils give me the same kick as an artist gets whilst watching his colour palliate and a musician gets while playing his instruments. Yes, at times it gets monotonous with the same menu to be prepared daily but you beat the monotony through creating and recreating the same dish. You use your imagination and make innovations to a dish. The moment it gets monotonous to me, I start looking for odd things in my fridge and add it to the routine dish. I keep thinking on different ways to upgrade the dish. That's how a restaurant survives.
3. Have you made any blunders during such experiments?
When I had started, I did make blunders. But learned and cracked the code to a tasty dish everytime by the passing time. I remember when I had just started and the chef asked me if I could cook fish curry at a party which had as many as 50 guests. He asked me if I knew how to make fish, I said I have just learned chicken curry. He told me to make fish in the same manner. Now when you make chicken, you stir it rigorously as the pieces are hard but fish being delicate, you have to be cautious while stirring. I stirred it like chicken and broke all the pieces. I was punished by my chef who made me clean the fridge for the following week and wasn't allowed near the kitchen. But the incident taught me the lesson of saying no to a thing that you aren't sure of. I don't think any chef has never erred in his career.
4. What is required to crack the code as you just mentioned?
Well, experience and presence of mind. One has to be open to experimenting with dish.
5. But on the contrary, Indians aren't open to innovation?
yes, that's true. India has a huge population and especially metro cities are a great mix of people from different cities, castes and culture. Some go out to dine four times a week while others go out probably two times a month. It becomes a little difficult for a chef to satisfy different and such varying requirements. But things are becoming clearer now. The hotels now clearly state if it's a classical Italian or modern Italian restaurant. A classical restaurant means authentic food sans any innovation.
6. Five key points to be kept in mind while cooking a tasty dish?
Attitude, visualising the balance of flavours in mind as to what exactly do you want, right recipe, correct raw materials, correct cooking utensils. For example you can might as well save time by cooking chicken curry in pressure cooker but please the correct utensil to make it is a handi.
7. How is it to judge a show with Akshay Kumar? Has he cooked any dish for you so far?
Its a fabulous and a fantastic experience for me to be sharing the same stage as him. He is a disciplined guy and has good knowledge on food. he may not be technically very sound but definitely works like a trained cook (given his experience as a cook for two years). He keeps cooking whenever time allows him to on the set of the show. he has made chicken dumplings, noodles for us.
8. How would you rate him as a cook on the scale of 10?
I would give him a six or seven out of 10.
9. What does he keep in mind while judging the contestants?
I judge the contestant based on the dish he has cooked today. I don't care about how good a cook he has been or can be. For me present is to be judged everything else is imaginary. A chef is as good as his last dish. The technique the cook has used has to come out and so has to be the theme of the dish. If its a classical dish it has to be purely classical and if its innovative, then your creativity has to come out in the open. One has to crack the right kind of flavours, ingredients and colour.
10. How much is presenting a dish important to him?
it's very important to me. As it is rightly said that you feast your eyes before you feast your stomach. But it can also be situational. Like at home I might not worry or pay attention at the presentation but when I am cooking at the hotel, I am very particular about good presentation of the dish.
11. What are the important requisites for a good cook?
Apart from attitude, one has to be patient and humble. Like any other art, cooking which again is a art requires patience, humility, dedication and hunger to learn. We in Indian kitchens like any other art form still follow the very unique guru-shishya ritual. You have to be trained under an able chef and listen to all his words of wisdom. You have different recipes all over the cook books and Internet but the art and skill are learned only under able guidance of an experienced master.
12. Who has impressed him so far on the show?
All of them on the show have impressed me equally. They started as an amateur but have come a long way. When I had started auditioning the contestants, I feared if they would be able to live up to the expectations and standard of the show. But I am amazed to see their progress and even more surprised to know that they have no idea as to how far have they come.
13. Indians are known to mix emotions with almost everything. Is it justified?
It's true that we are highly emotional breed of human beings. I too was taken by surprise when I saw the contestants crying on the show. But this show is a matter of life and death to many. There is a contestant on the show who has lost everything in life and is on the brink of bankruptcy. His only hope is this show. When you talking about such desperate a situation, tears are bound to roll down your cheeks.
14. Do you think we can match the international standard of cooking?
Certainly or it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that we might even surpass it. We are trying almost all the cuisines whereas our counterparts stick to their forte. They never experiment beyond their comfort zone. I can vouch that the upcoming episodes will be an eye-opener of sorts to critics and fans alike. The show which was labelled as a bag of emotions will talk only of food.
15. Why do we have more male chefs in India whereas kitchens at home are female dominated?
I will have to agree with you on this but then even this profession has the same reason like any other profession. This is a labour intensive profession which also tests your mental and physical stamina. Cooking is a blend of art and science. I am not saying females aren't laborious but this profession is not glorified. When I had started, my friends and acquaintances taunted me saying that i have become a bawarchi. They have still not grown out of that mentality. Probably one of the reasons why female haven't tried to make into this profession.
16. What's the USP of Master Chef India?
We are the first to come out with food and reality. Master Chef India is about the spirit of people who live by cooking.
17. What are you passionate about apart from cooking?
I am passionate about music and photography. After cooking for six days a week, I like to pursue my hobbies the seventh day of the week.